Eddie: Tell me, Steve. How did you get involved in the filming of Spiderman?
Steve: There are three parts. First I started collecting fireflies in New York and that got me interested in entomology.
When I got my master's degree at Cal State Long Beach, my major professor, Dr. E. L. Sleeper suggested I take care of 3000 African Locusts for the Exorcist II and that got my start in Hollywood.
And third, I got a call from Robin Miller who is the property master on Spiderman. He said we had a guy come in with tarantulas and we don't want tarantulas for this picture. Come in with some small spiders. And that got me the job.
Eddie: So you had the experience with small spider that they wanted?
Steve: Yeah.
Eddie: Tell me about your background with spiders.
Steve: I've had a class in terrestrial arthropods. And ever since I started I always found insects fascinating. And then when I started to learn about Arachnids it opened up a whole new world to me. So, I became very interested in spiders.
Eddie: Have you done Hollywood work before with spiders.
Steve: Yes. I've worked on many pictures with spiders and scorpions. Probably the most famous is Arachnophobia.
Eddie: Yeah. I saw that!
Steve: But I also did a music video for Godsmack for the Scorpion King.
Eddie: Oh, really?
Steve: Yeah.
Eddie: Didn't you do something with Aliens?
Steve: Yes. I also did a spider on a web in Aliens and that spider was half real. The front half was real and we removed the abdomen and made a fake one.
Eddie: What was your role in Spiderman?
Steve: My role in Spiderman was to do all of those live spiders in the beginning of the picture. It takes place in a genetics lab. They take genes from three different spiders with three different strengths - jumping, strength and cognition - being able to think. They called those spider senses. They took those genes. They made a mutant spider. Which is really a Steatodus spider that we painted blue and red. We made it red and blue to match the spiderman colors.
Then the thing I had to do was web it down on a spiderweb. So the spider made its own web on a 15 foot ladder. I dropped it six feet so it could hit his and hand and then we did all the followup shots where he brushes the spider off, the spider crawls on the floor, and crawls away. And then I did a couple of follow up spider shots.
Eddie: Michael Coleman, a student a student of technology at Fremont High School here in Oakland asked "Is it worth the effort to use CGI insect characters?"
Steve: If you look at the real spider work it looks really great. The actual bite when it was biting was CGI and you can really tell the difference.
Eddie: You can tell the difference?
Steve: That's why real is always better.
Eddie: Well, tell me more about Steve Kutcher. What makes him tick?
Steve: Steve Kutcher has a passion for the environment and Steve Kutcher has a passion for insects. He also likes people a lot, too. So, as one of the professors up at Berkeley said, Steve Kutcher likes phenomena. He wants to understand how it works. He like figuring out problems and exploring.
Eddie: Why is Steve Kutcher the spider man behind Spiderman?
Steve: Because the most important part of the film is when Peter, the character, gets bitten by the spider and those genes are supposedly transferred into Peter and then he becomes Spiderman. And if I didn't do the spider work he couldn't be Spiderman.
Eddie: Do you identify with the character, Spiderman?
Steve: Do you mean how many flies do I eat?
Eddie: If that's how you identify!
Steve: Spiderman got all these characteristics. He can spin webs, climb buildings, but he doesn't eat flies. Well, I don't eat flies either, but .. No! I just think he's a superhero that has spider characteristics. What I do think is interesting is that Stan Lee chose a spider, which a lot of people don't like, to turn it into a superhero. I think that's interesting.
Eddie: What was the hardest spider scene you ever had to shoot?
Steve: On the movie the hardest thing was to be on a 15 foot ladder, to drop the spider down and to hit the exact spot when the wind is blowing a little bit and Toby is moving a little bit. That was hard. One of the hardest things ever to figure out was in Arachnophobia - to have the spider to crawl into a slipper from four feet away.
Eddie: What special knowledge or experience do shoots like those take?
Steve: I worked on my master's thesis for 6.5 years studying milkweed bugs and how they aggregate. What I really learned was a lot of techniques and things you use in the movie industry. So, becoming a professional entomologist gives you some of the tools to use insects in films so that you can manipulate them. And that's something that the dog and cat trainer doesn't get.
Eddie: Did you get to meet Spiderman?
Steve: I not only met him, I worked with him.
Eddie: What is he like in real life?
Steve: Toby? Toby's a real nice guy. I had my picture taken with him. So I have a picture of Spiderman and spider man. The director said .. was excellent to work with. We tried lowering down a plastic spider, but he could see, everybody could see it didn't look as good. Then we went to a real spider and that's was what I was waiting for.
Eddie: So, do you think the movie lives up to its advertising?
Steve: It's a fun movie. I personally didn't care for the ending as much. It's hype for a second Spiderman and they're planning to have a second Spiderman.
Eddie Oh! They are?!
Steve: They actually have a Spiderman 2 and 3 in the works. I don't know if I'll be working on them. I think that some of the effects, just, you know, you see them as special effects. You don't see them as real. You understand real is real. And it's a fantasy thing. So, if you let yourself fall into the fantasy mode. I mean I think of something like Star Wars, that's coming out. It's also going to be a good picture. But, I mean, think of how silly it is. You have these guys with saber light swords sword fighting when they can make spaceships that travel intergallactically. I mean if somebody whipped out a sword wouldn't you just pull out a ray gun and zap them? You know they're still doing sword fights! It's really kind of like .. that's like in Desert Storm. You take away their M16s and give them swords. Kinda ridiculous - but it makes for a good picture.
Eddie: So, would you like to be involved in Spiderman 2 and 3?
Steve: Yes. I would like to very much and I should be.

Kutcher Recommended Reading: "The Bug Scientists" by Jackson, Donna M. (pages 32-33). Houghton Mifflin and Company. 2002
More about Steve Kutcher
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